I've renamed social enterprise "Fun Business" and I expect everyone to get on board
I'VE RENAMED SOCIAL ENTERPRISE "FUN BUSINESS" AND I EXPECT EVERYONE TO GET ON BOARD
I have a secret shame, which is that I HATE the phrase "social enterprise". Not the thing itself, mind; not the movement, or the people doing the cool things, or what it represents about the future of business. That stuff I love. But the phrase? I find it dry and boring and makes me think of committee meetings where no-one laughs and everyone is earnest about enormous societal problems that make us all want to die.
Inspired by an hilarious blog post I read today that renamed "mental illness" as "depresh" or "depressy", I am hereby renaming social enterprise Fun Business.* It's not precise but it evokes the feeling I want to have when thinking about social enterprise.
Hold up. What is social enterprise?
I think you mean "what is Fun Business?".
Social enterprises are businesses that operate for social or environmental change or impact. They use business models. They generate profits. But their success is not just about profit; it's about how much the social or environmental thing improves. They are not charities. They are not NFPs and they are not, er, FPs. And they are one of the biggest means of an individual changing the world. Here is an image showing where Fun Business fits on the business/philanthropy spectrum (yoinked from Miradi Innovations):
That sounds serious. Why do you call it Fun Business?
It is serious. The problems social enterprises seek to address are serious ones. Long term unemployment in at risk communities. Affordable housing in low income communities. Environmental protection. And, right here at Symphony, access to justice. But we don't have to frown the whole time just because the problems are serious ones. In fact, as in everything in life, we will be much more effective if we embrace what delicious fun social enterprises can represent.
Why does Fun Business matter?
There are two questions here.
First, why does it matter to me? Well, it's in my blood; I come from a very big picture family, with Mum especially demonstrating how to use business processes for social impact.
Social enterprise (urgh) is a new name for what Mum has always done in her work. The social impact she sought was reduced SIDS rates across all populations in New Zealand (traditionally Maori and Pacific populations have much higher rates of SIDS than NZ Europeans). Over the course of her career she has designed several successful systems to reduce smoking in pregnancy, spread safe sleep messaging through at risk communities, and systemise hospital intervention to assist families in becoming smokefree.
Just before the Christchurch earthquakes she developed the Pepi-Pod programme, a high quality low cost infant sleep pod (packaged with safe sleep information) that gave parents a safe, transportable sleep space for their newborn babies. Lots of cultures have these - alternatives include the Wahakura, a woven flax basket traditional to Maori culture, and the Finnish box. Since then all but one of New Zealand's 20 DHBs have bought and distributed Pepi-Pods to families throughout New Zealand.
Mum doesn't ever toot her own horn, and she would be uncomfortable with me doing so either, so if you want to read more about the impact of infant sleep pods (including the Pepi Pod) on the SIDS rates in New Zealand over the last few years, I'll leave you to read this coverage from the last week.
All of this means that social enterprise feels old and natural and comfy to me. It is part of who I am and how I operate.
Second, it matters because we cannot leave this stuff to everyone else. Not the government - there is too much politics and bureaucracy and the three year focus is too short term. Not charity - it is not sustainable to require the engine driving the change to ask for money all the time.
Of what's left over, business seems an excellent fit. I've written before about how business IS a human enterprise, and we can't separate it from its impact on individuals and society. But more than that, business is so creative and responsive, it is extremely well-placed to tackle the kinds of issues traditionally left to government and charity; it is arguably much better placed, because we don't have to fill out as many forms or explain ourselves as much. Plus it pays a living wage, and can be sustainable in ways that government and charity can't be. **
But back to Fun Business, please.
Sorry, I got all dry again. Why am I renaming this Fun Business? Because it's damned important, and too important to have a name that makes me groan inwardly and change the channel.
Social enterprise, I think, is the key to not just maintaining or improving the status quo on social and environmental issues, but actually creating a new business norm where social and environmental impacts - our connection to our bigger pictures - flourish. That is really exciting!
And speaking from experience, working in a social enterprise is fun. You're doing creative work, you're using your strengths, you have clear demand because people are paying for what you're doing, and you can feel that deep gut sense of rightness that you're acting not just for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others. YOU GUYS, THAT IS SOME OF THE GREATEST FUN THERE IS. THAT IS SOUL-LEVEL FUN.
Is Symphony Law a Fun Business?
Turns out we are. I didn't think we were, though it had always been my intention to be one. Then I realised that the Toolkit Packages are my answer to the access to justice crisis. Social impact? Tick. Using a business model? Tick. Getting paid to do work I love for an important reason within a bigger context of societal need? TICK TICK TICK.
You're going to hear more from me about Fun Businesses. If you can't wait, head over to the Akina Foundation's website - it supports social enterprises to get up and running and employs some outstanding people whom I've had coffee with and think are amazing.
* Not to be confused with fun business, which is simply business that is fun. Fun Business is social enterprise by another name that smells way sweeter.
** There is some discomfort in the idea of people making money doing good. I reject that discomfort entirely; it produces an upside down reward system. If we adhere rigidly to the notion that those doing good, serving the vulnerable, protecting the planet, must do so simply for the reward of knowing they have done good, we will find that business gets away with inward-looking, selfish, profit motives, while those doing work to serve more of us must live with less. That is crazy. Why would we reward those who don't contribute?